Sunday, December 29, 2019, Cleveland shined as the center of college basketball as Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse played host to the inaugural Cleveland Classic. The event featured two games with the main event being a top-20 showdown between the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes and the #22 West Virginia Mountaineers. The other game was the Marshall Thundering Herd against the Duquesne Dukes. So, one would think that with the big matchup being West Virginia against Ohio State that it would’ve been the second game and Marshall against Duquesne would’ve been the first game. However, it was the opposite.
The crowd was amazing throughout the entire game between the Buckeyes and Mountaineers. Also, it was almost a sellout. It was just about 3,000 people short and based on the crowd noise, it seemed like it was almost 50/50 in terms of Ohio State fans and West Virginia fans. Throughout the game, one fan base would be more vocal than the other. For a stretch of the game, one would hear the Ohio State fans doing chants and then West Virginia would pick up momentum and their fans would become vocal.
The game started kind of slow, as it took a little over two minutes for the game to have any type of score. But once the scoring did start, it kind of went in a little bit of a pattern where there would be a fleury of scoring and then there would be a stretch of a few minutes where there would be no scoring. West Virginia trailed by as many as nine in the first half, but at the end of the first half, the score was 37-31 in favor of Ohio State. That’s the only thing that bothers me about college basketball is how low scoring the games are. 37-31 could be the score at the end of the first half, but in the NBA, 37-31 would be approximately midway through the second quarter. So, as much as I enjoy college basketball, I do wish they would change the game from two halves to four quarters. I think that fans would still get the very competitive games that they’re getting now, but there would be higher-scoring games.
Going back to the second half of WVU vs OSU, it was a half that had momentum swings like a pendulum. There was a lot more scoring and those stretches caused major energy swings not just on the court but in the crowd. Again, the momentum shifts in the game were caused the two fan bases to go back and forth about who would be louder. For a few minutes, it was the Ohio State fans who were the louder and more passionate fan base. But then West Virginia would get on a roll and their fans would become more boisterous and passionate. West Virginia took the lead on a push-shot by Derek Culver with approximately 3:31 remaining. That shot by Culver was followed by another made basket for the Mountaineers courtesy of guard Miles McBride from 18 feet out and he added two free throws late to seal the deal.
McBride, who is a freshman guard for West Virginia, is a Cincinnati native so he does remain a huge Ohio State football fan. But he doesn’t have that type of passion for the Ohio State basketball team. This is what he had to say after the game courtesy of espn.com:
“I knew if we got this win, our fan base was going to go crazy,” he said. “Both teams have prideful fan bases, but I wanted our fans to have a little edge. I had family and friends in the crowd and it felt like a big tournament game. The whole day was great. There’s nothing like it.”
Again, that is what Miles McBride had to say after #22 West Virginia knocked off #2 Ohio State in Cleveland. Ohio State was held to a season-low in points and committed a season-high in turnovers (22) and fouls (25). To add on, the Buckeyes made five of 24 shots in the second half and thus were outscored 36-22 in the second half.
Thanks to this win, Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins is 3-0 against the Buckeyes after taking over the program in 2007. To add on, because Ohio State was #2, it was Huggins’ 19th win over a top-10 team with West Virginia. Again, courtesy of ESPN this is what Bob Huggins had to say:
“I wasn’t very happy with them at halftime because I didn’t think we played as hard as they did and we got in foul trouble,” Huggins said. “Then they came out in the second half and played as well as we’ve played defensively all year.”
So, after that exciting game, a majority of the crowd left leaving my guess would be no more than 6,000 people for Marshall vs. Duquesne. It felt like the air had been let out of the balloon because all of the energy that was there for OSU vs. WVU was gone. There was a small contingency of Marshall fans, but other than that no crowd energy. The game wasn’t even exciting because Marshall blew out Duquesne, 83-61.
So again, I loved the event, but the games were in the wrong order. They should’ve done Marshall vs. Duquesne first and then Ohio State against West Virginia. Not the other way around!